My Mother brought me a slim little book with a nondescript black jacket and the puzzling title “Unfashionable”. I thought to myself, “What in the world is this about?” She said she thought I would enjoy it. When I opened it I found a quote by Charles Spurgeon that had apparently been the seed that grew into this book by the grandson of Billy Graham, William Graham TullianTchividjian.
“The great guide of the world is fashion and its god is respectability – two phantoms
at which brave men laugh! How many of you look around on society to know what
to do? You watch the general current and then float upon it! You study the popular
breeze and shift your sails to suit it. True men do not so! You ask, “Is it fashionable?
If it is fashionable, it must be done.” Fashion is the law of multitudes, but it is nothing
more than the common consent of fools.” Charles Spurgeon
Tchividjian then launches with a Letterman-style top ten list to define unfashionable:
“You May Be Too Fashionable If….
10. You can look around at church and notice that everybody is basically the same age as you are, and they look and dress pretty much like you do.
9. You think it’s very uncool to sing a worship song that was “in” five years ago – much less a hymn from another century.
8. It’s been a long time since you disagreed with anything said by Oprah.
7. You’ve attended a “leadership” conference where you learned more about organization and props (structural renovation) than proclamation and prayer (spiritual reformation).
6. Your goal in spending time with non-Christians is to demonstrate that you’re really no different than they are, and to prove this you curse like a sailor, drink like a fish, and smoke like a chimney.
5. You’ve concluded that everything new is better than anything old or that everything old is better than anything new.
4. You think that the way Jesus lived is more important than what he said – that his deeds are more important than his doctrine.
3. You believe that the best way to change our culture is to elect a certain kind of politician.
2. The church you’ve chosen is defined more by its reaction to “boring traditional” churches than by its response to a needy world.
1. The one verse you most wish wasn’t in the Bible is John 14:6, where Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That’s way too close minded!”
The book is a thoughtful treatise on the divisive issue of how Christians should relate to our broader culture. Tim Keller’s forward describes three views that evangelicals have traditionally held with regard to culture:
1. Christians are too assimilated into the culture around them. They have been too passive and need to “take the culture back” through politics and social activism around issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, fatherhood, gender roles, and abstinence education. The answer is to regain a Christian worldview and penetrate the culture.
2. Christians are too withdrawn into their own subculture and are indifferent to the inequality, injustice, and suffering in the world. We must stir people to connect with felt needs and work against inequality and injustice in the world.
3. Both the conservative evangelical church and the liberal mainline church have become like the world, dominated by the political economy of capitalism and liberal democracy. The church should be an “alternative” society, a counterculture, identifying with the poor and marginalized and offering a a rich, liturgical worship that shapes Christians into a new society instead of trying to transform the current culture.
He says that the many adherents of each of these 3 positions tend to define themselves against each other instead of against the world, leading to divisiveness, imbalances, and overreaching.
Tchividjian, according to Keller, critiques all three approaches, showing the strengths of each and showing how they can work together at the level of the local congregation.
This topic has been one that I have considered quite a bit in the last 3-4 years, since I myself became more involved in the United Methodist denomination as a delegate to its annual representative body. These different approaches, and the conflict among them, becomes clear as one listens to and talks with various people.
Now that the book has my attention, I want to spend more thoughtful quiet time in reading it.